Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Ah Piau's Fish Head Curry

Whether in cities or small towns, food lovers would go to great length in search of the best food, whether it is western food, Japanese food, Chinese restaurant food or simply hawker food. I have never been particularly adventurous about food. Being prone to laziness, I would find the nearest place to have my meal, even though I might not remember what I have eaten. I have also felt incredulous that food lovers would travel long distances just to eat a particular food that they like.

I remembered many years ago that we would drive from Petaling Jaya to Ampang just to have the Yong dao fu, which Ampang is famous for. It took us almost an hour to drive to that particular yong dao fu shop, and having arrived there, we had to wait a while for a table to be vacated before we could order the famous Ampang yong dao fu because there were other food lovers too who did the same crazy thing. Of course the yong dao fu was much better and many would also buy back some, but to drive through traffic congested KL to the place, wait for a table, and then to finish the food in less than half an hour in hot, sweltering weather, and then to drive back to PJ? All for a few pieces of yong dao fu? I could never understand the passion people have seeking out the best eating places be it far or near.

I remembered too that whenever, some friends go up to Kuala Lumpur, they would most definitely make a detour to Tangkat, Muar for the famous beef noodles even though it would delay them by an hour. In Johor Bahru, they would seek out the popular beef noodle shop even if they have to weave through the maddening traffic and getting lost in the process. The beef noodles must be had. But then food lovers would contemptuously say that this idiot doesn’t know how to live!

That is why if you ask me the best places to eat in Batu Pahat, I wouldn’t have a clue.

But recently, a friend of mine brought me to Ah Piau’s fish head curry. I didn’t even know where the shop was. Anyway, he was driven by a sudden craving for Ah Piau’s fish head curry, and invited me along, as by himself, he wouldn’t be able to finish a pot. Anyway I thought that it might be a good idea to try it and buy back a small portion for my mother.

The shop, located at Jalan Sultanah, has a signboard that says “Ikan Kari Ah Piau” or “Ah Piau’s Curry Fish”. The shop is nondescript in appearance, but his gleaming stainless steel pots and his ‘kitchen’ are impressively clean.

Ah Piau, the boss

Ah Piau, invariably dressed in a coloured singlet, undoubtedly to display his tattoo, looks more like a muscular underworld character than an operator of a food business. He is helped by his wife and pretty daughter too.

The curry gravy being boiled

Fish being added to the curry

The final result. The golden brown 'balls' are the tao hu pok

The fish curry was piping hot as it was cooked there and then. You have a choice of either the tail, the head or just the meat of the red snapper. The curry which comes with lady’s fingers, your choice of fish part, and dao hu pok ( could someone translate this?). It was, for a person who is not particularly concerned about what he eats, well, delicious. The first small bowl of rice was followed by another, for the curry was superb with rice.

Chopped long beans fried with eggs

Kangkung fried in chilli shrimp paste

We also ordered a plate of chopped long beans fried with eggs. This was more like a home cooked dish. Another dish which is popular with patrons is canned pickled lettuce fried with slivers of pork. It was a too salty and sweet for my liking. We also ordered kangkung fried with pounded dried shrimp chilli paste. It was crunchy and spicy.

The fish curry was the best that I have had for a long time.

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